UK Solar Orbiter Interacts with Comet Tail for Second Time During Mission

7th Feb 2022
UK Solar Orbiter Interacts with Comet Tail for Second Time During Mission

The UK built Solar Orbiter, which is currently on a mission to collect data from the Sun, has flown through the tail of a comet for the second time. The British Solar Orbiter, which is involved in a mission funded by NASA and the ESA, passed through the tail of comet C/2021 A1 Leonard in December 2021. It is expected that the data collected from this interaction will help researchers to understand more about the relationship between comets and solar wind. The UK Solar Orbiter is due to direct its course towards the Sun in March 2022.

Solar Wind Technology Helps Detect Comet Tail Presence

The Solar Orbiter was able to detect its interaction with a comet tail due to its Solar Wind Analyser. The tool was able to detect molecules that make up the comet tail and detect changes in the solar wind. The Solar Orbiter will pass by the Sun in March to photograph the Sun’s polar regions for the first time.

UCL Researchers Predicted British Solar Orbiter’s Crossover with Comet Tail

Researchers at University College London anticipated that the Solar Orbiter would come into contact with the comet tail before the event took place. They were able to predict this using a computer code developed by Geraint Jones, who works at the UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory. Jones is also due to lead an upcoming Comet Interceptor project, funded by the European Space Agency, that aims to take 3D pictures of a comet tail. This forewarning let the UK Solar Orbiter mission prepare for comet tail data collection, allowing for future collaboration between these projects.

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